italy Tag

hadrian's villa, tivoli, villa adriana, italy, world heritage site
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The old villa ruins of Tivoli

Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Italy Earlier this week I wrote about Villa d’Este in the Italian city of Tivoli. Well, today I want to tell you about another villa in the city. A very different one. Like Villa d’Este, this one is a masterpiece, a World Heritage Site, and an easy day trip from Rome. But they don’t look the same at all. This one is in ruins. I’m talking about Hadrian’s Villa, on the outskirts of Tivoli. It was here that the great Roman Emperor Hadrian built his retreat from the bustle of Roman life in the second century. He built it so well that he decided he liked it more than his official residence and ruled the empire from here in his later years. The compound is huge, stretching out for at least one square kilometre. Pools, libraries, temples, palaces… it has it all. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people could comfortably have...

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15 November
villa d'este, tivoli, italy, world heritage site
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Tivoli’s masterpiece

Villa d'Este, Tivoli It’s not too hard to imagine what kind of man Ippolito II d’Este would have been. Born into a wealthy and influential Italian family in 1509, he was a lover of the finest things. Although he was made Archbishop of Milan when he was nine years old (the title was hereditary then), he saw the church as an instrument to be used to gain even more power. Vows of celibacy weren’t his thing. He would bring in musicians, prostitutes, feasts and wine to impress the people who needed impressing. When he was made the governor of Tivoli, he arrived in the town about 20 kilometres from Rome and did not like the look of the home that had been assigned to him. And so, in the style appropriate for someone who kept peacocks as pets, he decided to build a new and much grander residence. Nobody argued at the time...

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11 November
tuscan cooking, italian cooking school, tuscany, luxury villa
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Over a Tuscan stove

Tuscan cooking I try first with one hand and then with two. Either way, I can’t seem to roll the dough into the smooth even cylinders I’m aiming for. The more I try, the worse it gets. “Too much pressure”, I’m told by the Italian cook. Tell me about it! I feel like everyone is watching me as I literally make a mess of this meal. Although the ‘pressure’ he’s referring to is coming from my hands. I ease up a bit and the dough starts to resemble something a bit closer to the expected. It’s gnocchi that I’m trying to make. After mashing potatoes, mixing them with flour and kneading the combination into a big lump, I’m now at the crucial stage of turning the mass into small pieces to be cooked. Luckily there’s an expert at hand to give me some instruction (and probably fix my mistakes if all goes too...

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30 September
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, Modena, ferrari museum, italy, cars (2)
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“Cars are only beautiful when they win”

Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, Modena In the vast stadium of fluorescent light, the cars look like glowing orbs of style. Raised on low platforms, each machine is given a respectful space from the others. Despite the name, this is not a museum. This is more a shrine… and everything is set up to allow visitors to worship. For car enthusiasts (I’m not going to pretend to be one), Ferrari is one of the gods. Like religion generally, there are many faiths – but devotees of each believe fervently in theirs. It is no different with cars and Ferrari has one of the largest and most faithful congregations in the world. The Enzo Ferrari Museum in the Italian city of Modena is built on the site of the man’s birthplace. But it is only partly about Enzo Ferrari and his life. You see, his life became the car brand (not just in name) and...

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07 January
cheap tuscany, tuscany accommodation, tuscan food, cheap, affordable, budget (5)
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How to visit Tuscany cheaply

Cheap Tuscany, Italy It’s no surprise that one of the most popular regions of Italy is also one of the most expensive. Between accommodation, food and sites, you can really burn through the euros on a trip to Tuscany. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way - it is possible to travel Tuscany on the cheap. By accident, I discovered a way to keep the cost of visiting Tuscany right down. And the bonus? Well, it might actually be better suited to your style of travel as well. Introducing… dramatic drumroll… the hostel in the countryside! Cheap Tuscany accommodation In the quiet little village of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, the hostel is one of the largest buildings. That’s not to say it’s large, more that everything else is appropriately proportioned for a village. It’s called the ‘Ostello del Chianti’ and a bed in a dorm will cost only 16...

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08 July
ferrara, italy, planned city, unesco site, emilia romagna (2)
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Withstanding an earthquake

Ferrara, Italy It was early in the morning when the earth shook Ferrara awake. Nature has no regard for history, for architecture or for heritage. The planet is bigger than them all and it strikes indiscriminately. The day after the earthquake struck Italy's Emilia Romagna region, at 5.9 on the richter scale, I visited the city. Cracks were on the walls, small piles of rubble still on the ground, and barricades erected by emergency services around buildings in danger. Thankfully the damage was minimal, with only minor structural damage. Thankfully, because Ferrara is known worldwide as one of the finest examples of city planning. In its streets, quite literally, is the inspiration for many modern cities today. Ferrara was the first planned city of the renaissance and the first in Italy not to follow the traditional Roman principles. It had two major perpendicular avenues the design was based around, wide roads to accommodate traffic...

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06 July